Start reading The Black Swan: Second Edition on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Enter a promotion code
or gift card
 
 
 

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Color:
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player

 

The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility" [Kindle Edition]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (854 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $9.15
You Save: $7.85 (46%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $9.15  
Hardcover $17.54  
Paperback $9.63  
Audio, CD $35.99  
Unknown Binding --  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $23.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
Kindle Daily Deals
Kindle Delivers: Daily Deals
Subscribe to find out about each day's Kindle Daily Deals for adults and young readers. Learn more (U.S. customers only)

Book Description

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
 
Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”
 
For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility,” which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
 
Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications, The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory. The Black Swan is a landmark book—itself a black swan.
 
Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
 
“The most prophetic voice of all.”—GQ
 
Praise for The Black Swan
 
“[A book] that altered modern thinking.”—The Times (London)
 
“A masterpiece.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail
 
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.”—Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
 
The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate
 
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Hugely enjoyable—compelling . . . easy to dip into.”—Financial Times
 
“Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb continues his exploration of randomness in his fascinating new book, The Black Swan, in which he examines the influence of highly improbable and unpredictable events that have massive impact. Engaging and enlightening, The Black Swan is a book that may change the way you think about the world, a book that Chris Anderson calls, "a delightful romp through history, economics, and the frailties of human nature." See Anderson's entire guest review below.


Guest Reviewer: Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and the author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.

Four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon warned that our minds are wired to deceive us. "Beware the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall--they are the real distorting prisms of human nature." Chief among them: "Assuming more order than exists in chaotic nature." Now consider the typical stock market report: "Today investors bid shares down out of concern over Iranian oil production." Sigh. We're still doing it.

Our brains are wired for narrative, not statistical uncertainty. And so we tell ourselves simple stories to explain complex thing we don't--and, most importantly, can't--know. The truth is that we have no idea why stock markets go up or down on any given day, and whatever reason we give is sure to be grossly simplified, if not flat out wrong.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb first made this argument in Fooled by Randomness, an engaging look at the history and reasons for our predilection for self-deception when it comes to statistics. Now, in The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable, he focuses on that most dismal of sciences, predicting the future. Forecasting is not just at the heart of Wall Street, but it’s something each of us does every time we make an insurance payment or strap on a seat belt.

The problem, Nassim explains, is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat (diligently trying to follow the path of the "millionaire next door," when unrepeatable chance is a better explanation). Instead, the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, "all swans are white" had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth. So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate, or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found Cygnus atratus in Australia.

Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract generalizable stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it's practically useless. September 11th is one such example, and stock market crashes are another. Or, as he puts it, "History does not crawl, it jumps." Our assumptions grow out of the bell-curve predictability of what he calls "Mediocristan," while our world is really shaped by the wild powerlaw swings of "Extremistan."

In full disclosure, I'm a long admirer of Taleb's work and a few of my comments on drafts found their way into the book. I, too, look at the world through the powerlaw lens, and I too find that it reveals how many of our assumptions are wrong. But Taleb takes this to a new level with a delightful romp through history, economics, and the frailties of human nature. --Chris Anderson



From Booklist

In business and government, major money is spent on prediction. Uselessly, according to Taleb, who administers a severe thrashing to MBA- and Nobel Prize-credentialed experts who make their living from economic forecasting. A financial trader and current rebel with a cause, Taleb is mathematically oriented and alludes to statistical concepts that underlie models of prediction, while his expressive energy is expended on roller-coaster passages, bordering on gleeful diatribes, on why experts are wrong. They neglect Taleb's metaphor of "the black swan," whose discovery invalidated the theory that all swans are white. Taleb rides this manifestation of the unpredicted event into a range of phenomena, such as why a book becomes a best-seller or how an entrepreneur becomes a billionaire, taking pit stops with philosophers who have addressed the meaning of the unexpected and confounding. Taleb projects a strong presence here that will tempt outside-the-box thinkers into giving him a look. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2295 KB
  • Print Length: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 2 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00139XTG4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,666 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1,444 of 1,564 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost in Extremistan with nothing but a Bell Curve April 18, 2007
Format:Hardcover
If, as Socrates would have it, the only true knowledge is knowledge of one's own ignorance, then Nassim Nicholas Taleb is the world's greatest living teacher. In The Black Swan, Taleb's second book for laypeople, he gives a full treatment to concepts briefly explored in his first book "Fooled by Randomness." The Black Swan is basically a sequel to that book, but much more focused, detailed and scholarly. This is a book of serious philosophy that reads like a stand-up comedy routine. (Think Larry David...)

The Black Swan is probably the strongest statement of enlightened empiricism since Ernst Mach refused to acknowledge the existence of the atom. Of course, in theory, everyone today is supposed to be an empiricist - all right-thinking intellectuals claim to base their views solely on positive scientific observation. But very few sincerely confront the implications of rigorous empiricism. Specifically, few confront "the problem of induction," illustrated here by the story of the black swan.

Briefly: observing an event once does not predict it will occur again in the future. This remains true regardless of the number of observations one adds to the pile. Or, as Taleb, recapitulating David Hume, has it: the observation of even a million white swans does not justify the statement "all swans are white." There is no way to know that somewhere out there a black swan is not hiding, disproving the rule and nullifying our "knowledge" of swans. The problem of induction tells us that we cannot really learn from our experiences. It makes knowledge very problematic, if not impossible. And yet, humans do behave -almost without exception- as though they believe that experience teaches us lessons. This is forgivable; there is no better path to knowledge.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
919 of 996 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Starting with the good (chapters 15 - 17), within chapter 15 Taleb explains where the Bell curve works and where it does not. The Bell curve captures well variables that don't deviate much from the mean. Otherwise, it does not work. Taleb suggests we often fool ourselves in believing that correlation, regression coefficients, or standard deviation convey much information. This is because those coefficients are unstable (and can flip sign when possible) depending on the time selected. This is because the underlying variables are often not stationary enough for these coefficients to be stable.

Chapter 16 is excellent as an introduction to Mandelbrot's fractal geometry as an alternative to Gaussian based investment theory. He supports well that these mathematical tools do capture randomness (of non-stationary variables) far better than the Normal distribution. However, he admits that Mandelbrotian models are not predictive. When looking at the same data set, he and numerous colleagues each came up with different underlying parameters to build fractal-like models. And a small difference in such parameters makes a huge difference in outcome. That's why you will not hear much of fractal geometry within the quantitative financial community. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating subject that deserves further exploration. For this purpose, I recommend Mandelbrot's The Misbehavior of Markets

Within Chapter 17, Taleb further elaborates on the flaws of the Normal distribution. He underlines that half of the return of the stock market over the past 50 years was associated with just 10 days with the greatest daily change.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
975 of 1,075 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an entertaining and enlightening book, and fairly easy to read. It has an important message regarding how the world works; that the world is governed not by the predictable and the average, but by the random, the unknownable, the unpredictable -- big events or discoveries or unusual people that have big consequences. Change comes not uniformly but in unpredictable spurts. These are the Black Swans of the title: completedly unexpected and rare events or novel ideas or technologies that have a huge impact on the world. Indeed, Taleb argues that history itself is primarly driven by these Black Swans.

It is convincing argument, entertainingly presented with plenty of sarcasm, and indeed, anger, by Taleb. For example he rails against the academic community, economists (including specific names), and Nobel Prize committee. Considerable numbers of his arguments "ring true" to me, that is my experience in life confirms that they are more accurate than the traditional approach. Like any important work, 90% of what is in the book is not original; that does not make it less important. Taleb's contribution is in integrating the material together, and showing how these different ideas are tied to the Black Swan.

The themes include: winner-take-all phenonomen, numerous effects of randomness on the world, the invalidity of the Gaussian Bell Curve to most things in world, concepts of scalablity, numerous instabilities in the world, especially the modern world where information travels so quickly, the fallacies about people's inability to predict the future.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The author of this book is astoundingly knowledgeable of a vast literature covering many fields. Out of his experience as a highly successful trader and researcher he has produced... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Thomas E. McCollough
4.0 out of 5 stars I can't give it 4.5 stars so 4 it is.
Geez, I might have given it 5 stars, anyway, until he gave the advice about the utility of money at the very end (I won't say more). Read more
Published 7 days ago by GAIL L BORCHARDT
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
the book has thought inducing messages and many examples to indicate reliability of content.

It has repeated derogatory comments on market proven methods of measurement... Read more
Published 8 days ago by C R Macaulay
3.0 out of 5 stars It's amazing...
how many books can be written about entropy. The second law of thermodymaics never ceases to make people believe they just discovered something amazing. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Chickaloon
4.0 out of 5 stars Confusion between Chaos and Probability in Complex Process Perception
I like book overall, especially when the Author degrades those "minds" that cannot see the so-called anti-fragility (or maybe chaotic)vents. Read more
Published 10 days ago by andrew nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars A reminder that statistics are not reality; they are only models, with...
A very readable look at how the sacred cow of statistics (the bell curve) has been used to delude modern man into believing that he
can predict and effect the future by... Read more
Published 12 days ago by maryann polidora
5.0 out of 5 stars the Black Swan
A very important book, which I found enlightening and entertaining.
This should be required reading in every boardroom and legislature in the country
Published 17 days ago by Jonathan E. Lepoff
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!!!
If you want an interesting read and something that will have your intellectual juices flowing - definitely recommend this book!
Published 21 days ago by S R
5.0 out of 5 stars A financial philosophy book by a guy who hates most financiers and...
Understand this: this is mostly a philosophy book about failures of knowledge, particularly our natural bias towards narrative and confirmation rather than deduction. Read more
Published 23 days ago by T. Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning
Don't buy book if you're looking for a quick easy read that explains Risk 101, or a breezy simple novel to delve into by ocean. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ev Nucci
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Book Extras from the Shelfari Community

(What's this?)

To add, correct, or read more Book Extras for The Black Swan , visit Shelfari, an Amazon.com company.


More About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent two decades as a trader before becoming a philosophical essayist and academic researcher. Although he now spends most of his time either working in intense seclusion in his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is "decision making under opacity", that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don't understand.

His works are grouped under the general title Incerto (latin for uncertainty), composed of a trilogy accessible in any order (Antifragile, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness) plus two addenda: a book of philosophical aphorisms (The Bed of Procrustes) and a freely available Technical Companion. Taleb's books have been published in thirty-three languages.

Taleb believes that prizes, honorary degrees, awards, and ceremonialism debase knowledge by turning it into a spectator sport.

""Imagine someone with the erudition of Pico de la Mirandola, the skepticism of Montaigne, solid mathematical training, a restless globetrotter, polyglot, enjoyer of fine wines, specialist of financial derivatives, irrepressible reader, and irascible to the point of readily slapping a disciple." La Tribune (Paris)

A giant of Mediterranean thought ... Now the hottest thinker in the world", London Times

"The most prophetic voice of all" GQ

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

(What's this?)

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?



Forums

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Topic From this Discussion
The Black Swan and What's Wrong with Nassim Taleb's Viewpoint.
George Box :: `all models are wrong, some are useful'

As a statistician, we never say our models are right but often just that they are useful. Assumptions are made and any (good) statistician would acknowledge this. Further, it's never a question of whether the assumptions hold -- we assume... Read more
Feb 5, 2008 by David |  See all 53 posts
What you need to understand about the bell curve before you can...
Michael,

Thanks for the facts. Your post demonstrates exactly why people DON'T understand or appreciate the bell curve. We all learned these facts in statistics. The empirical rule, etc. However, most people don't understand the practical application. It's similar to understanding algebraic... Read more
Apr 24, 2007 by Patrick R. Bowman |  See all 11 posts
Don't you have to understand the Bell Curve before you can appreciate...
The real question that needs to be answered is whether or not the actual time series data in a particular field satisfies some kind of goodness of fit test.The Chi-Square test for goodness of fit is the simplist to use.
Shewhart and Deming demonstrated ,in their work on quality control,that... Read more
Apr 24, 2007 by Michael Emmett Brady |  See all 9 posts
If Amazon would please care to explain the difference
Taken from his personal website (http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/):
"I added close to 100 pages to The Black Swan (new material On Robustness & Fragility) for the paperback version (May 2010). The addition will be published as a separate book Réflexions philosophiques in France (Les... Read more
Jul 4, 2010 by A. V. Jónsson |  See all 2 posts
Is this book practical?
Shockingly, Taleb's advice is catastophically flawed. He uses the example of Pascal's wager (the argument that a person should practice Christianity regardless of how improbable, because of its infinite payoff in the afterlife.) He writes, that while this is bad theology, it is good for worldly... Read more
Sep 10, 2008 by A. Allinger |  See all 5 posts
Monte Carlo simulation software Be the first to reply
Start a new discussion
Topic:
First post:
Prompts for sign-in
 




Look for Similar Items by Category


ARRAY(0xa4ce63b4)